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Critical Bugs in WordPress Plugins Let Hackers Take Over Sites

by Enrich Coleman

Hackers are attempting to take over tens of thousands of WordPress sites by exploiting critical vulnerabilities including a zero-day in multiple plugins that allow them to create rogue administrator accounts and to plant backdoors.

The attacks on WordPress sites have started yesterday by targeting a zero-day unauthenticated stored XSS bug found in the Flexible Checkout Fields for WooCommerce plugin with 20,000 active installations by researchers at NinTechNet.

While the plugin’s development team WP Desk pushed out version 2.3.2 to fix the actively targeted security flaw within an hour after receiving the disclosure report from NinTechNet, some users were hacked until it was available and ready to install.

Three other zero-days were also targeted

While analyzing these ongoing attacks’ scope, researchers at WordPress security firm Defiant found three additional zero-day flaws impacting other WordPress plugins which are now also being actively exploited:

The developers behind the Async JavaScript and 10Web Map Builder for Google Maps have already released patches for the two bugs actively exploited in the wild (1, 2), while Modern Events Calendar Lite is still waiting for a fix.

“This attack campaign exploits XSS vulnerabilities in the above plugins to inject malicious Javascript that can create rogue WordPress administrators and install malicious plugins that include backdoors,” Defiant threat analyst Mikey Veenstra said. “It is important that site administrators using these plugins urgently take steps to mitigate these attacks.”

“We take the security disclosure process very seriously, and we would not publish these details if it wasn’t necessary to alert the WordPress community about their risk in the midst of this campaign,” he added.

Attacks on WordPress sites

Campaigns attempting to compromise WordPress websites by exploiting recently patched or zero-day vulnerabilities in plugins are all the rage lately with hundreds of thousands of sites being exposed to attacks.

For instance, as BleepingComputer reported earlier this week, attackers atemptting to fully compromise or wipe WordPress sites by exploiting unpatched versions of ThemeGrill Demo Importer, Profile Builder, and Duplicator plugins with a reported number of 1,250,000 active installations.

Last week, a zero-day vulnerability allowing for remote code execution found in the ThemeREX Addons WordPress plugin with an estimated number of over 40,000 active installation was also actively exploited in a campaign that had as the end goal the creation of administrator accounts and fully taking over the vulnerable sites.

Attackers can also target other critical WordPress plugin flaws such as the multiple bugs found in the WordPress GDPR Cookie Consent plugin used by over 700,000 websites that can be used to inject malicious JavaScript code or the high severity cross-site request forgery (CSRF) bug in the Code Snippets plugin with over 200,000 installs that allows for site takeovers.

Last but not least, two vulnerabilities discovered in the open-source WP Database Reset WordPress plugin could be abused by hackers for full site takeover and/or database reset if the installations are not up to date.

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